BACKGROUND: The screening of patients who are at-risk drinkers, which means exceeding the thresholds defined by health authorities or associated with a specific situation (taking psychotropic drugs, having an organic pathology, driving a vehicle, drinking during pregnancy), represents a major issue in primary care. Few studies have offered perspective from the patients' standpoint. The main purpose of this study was to describe general practitioners at-risk drinking screening from their patients point of view. The secondary objective was to identify the factors associated with perception of satisfactory general practitioner knowledge about alcohol consumption.
METHODS: A quantitative cross-sectional study was launched in 9 general practitioner offices over 6 months. Patients older than 18 were recruited to answer a questionnaire blinded from their general practitioner, indicating the level of their alcohol consumption and their perception regarding their general practitioner's screening methods. Descriptive, univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed.
RESULTS: All in all, 445 patients were analyzed. Sixty-two at-risk drinkers were screened (13.9 %). Most of the patients declared they had not been interviewed about their alcohol consumption by their general practitioner either during initial consultations (86.1 %) or over time (83.3 %). Only 4.2 % of patients had previously initiated discussion about their consumption. Patients were not ashamed to talk about alcohol (99.2 %) and found their general practitioner to be competent on this topic (100 %). In multivariate analysis, independent factors associated with a good general practitioner knowledge about their patients' current consumption were the questions put forward by their general practitioner about alcohol consumption during their first visit (P<0.001) and during subsequent visits (P<0.001).
CONCLUSION: This study showed a low general practitioner screening rate of their patients' at-risk drinking. Only a minority of patients, including at-risk drinkers, declared that their general practitioner was aware of their level of alcohol consumption. Screening could be improved by being systematized during initial consultations and regularly scheduled during subsequent visits, especially in at-risk situations.